Dear Debut Self-Published Author, $4.99 (plus!) For Your Kindle Book?

Ummm, how can I say this nicely?

Are you kidding me?

Let’s just put this into context. I buy a lot of self-published books. I buy a lot of small-publisher books. And I buy the big pubs too. I’m OK paying $7.99, even $8.99 or (cringe) $9.99 for the Kindle version of a book from a big publisher whose track record is proven, and for either an author I know, or someone I don’t but who has 1000+ reviews on Amazon and still has an average of 4.5 stars.

You’ve gotta be J.K. Effing Rowling to get $12.99 for a Kindle book out of me.

If you don’t have a publisher behind you, (which I’m THOROUGHLY OK with,) I’m sorry, but you’ve got to prove to me that you’re worth my time and money before I’m going to take a chance. Why? Because there are a million more out there I could be enjoying.

Did you hire an editor? Good for you! Was it someone who just hung a virtual shingle or someone respected in the industry? How am I to know until I read the final product? Am I going to be pissed that I spent my money on your book which, after the sample I read and was happy with, slowed to a crawl and bored me to tears?

If I spent $.99 on it, no I won’t be too upset. If I spent $4.99? Hell yes!

So that brings me back around to the title of this post.

I didn’t spend that $4.99 on your book and I won’t. Quite frankly because I DO buy self published books. All the time. I know exactly what a gamble I’m taking. I know that I might find a jewel for a steal, or I might find a totally frustrating waste of my time.

This isn’t prejudice against anything at all. It’s my experience of reality.

Yes I’m more likely to take a chance on a unknown from a publisher I recognize. They’ve got a team behind them that’s proven their worth and their discretion in choosing books that I won’t regret paying for.

Your fifteen Amazon reviews (eight of which are from people who have no other reviews on there,) aren’t enough to convince me that you’re worth my time and money.

YOU need to prove it to me. By offering me your product at a price I’m willing to pay for a total gamble.

Now your second book, when the first has done so well and gotten a lot more reviews and earned you cred’, we can talk about $4. (Though honestly, why you wouldn’t go with $2.99 like every other sensible person, I can’t imagine.) Otherwise? You’re totally costing yourself sales, and you’ve lost my respect as well. Because I’m questioning your business sense now. Which makes me wonder if you know what your audience wants at all. Which means I didn’t buy your book.

So was that higher price really worth whatever intangible you got out of it? Because it’s losing you sales.


What about you? Does the publisher (or not) affect the price you’re willing to pay? Is your price ceiling the same no matter what? Do you even notice before you buy?

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11 Responses to Dear Debut Self-Published Author, $4.99 (plus!) For Your Kindle Book?

  1. DL Morrese says:

    Agree with Leah on this. I’ll pay 99¢ for an ebook by an author I’ve never read before if it sounds good. I might pay $2.99 for their next book if I liked the first – maybe a bit more if I REALLY liked it and it is a 200,000 word tome. Before ebooks, I introduced myself to new writers by borrowing books from the library. If I liked them, I’d buy others by the same author. Until readers know your work, you need to lower their risk. Pricing a first ebook at anything more than $2.99 (and that’s pushing it) is like putting a sign in a store window that says “Better bargains next door.”
    DL Morrese recently posted..Book Review – Gideon’s Sword by Preston & ChildMy Profile

  2. Exactly! “Better bargains next door.”

    That’s a great point. It’s not that readers had no cheap/free options before e-books and now we’re getting spoiled. Before that we just went to the library or the used book store.

    I live in a small rural town and the sff selection at the library sucks, but I’ve discovered a bunch of my favorite authors at used book stores. I put together all but three of the (then) eleven Wheel of Time books between the various local stores that sell used books.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..RELEASE DAY!!!!! The Prodigal’s Foole by RB WoodMy Profile

  3. Jaimie says:

    Yeah, I think if you want to price yourself high (which I do)…. $2.99.

    Pricing oneself at $0.99 feels like undervaluing one’s work almost. Some people write books in a few months so I get that $0.99 is appropriate. But my book is going to take 2+ years after several rewrites. A $0.99 book it is not. *snob*

  4. I remember a fairly recent conversation on Goodreads where a gentleman was raising awareness of his wife’s debut novel. It had great reviews, and even a review on a well-respected website. Unfortunately the price was in the double digits, well about $12.99. The lady was a debut author who no one had ever heard of. The reasoning behind the price was that, with the amount of work the author had put into the story, anything less would be selling herself short. A number of us tried to get him to see that people simply wouldn’t spend that amount for the book, but he was impervious. He and his lady wife had made up their mind and that was that.

    He was perfectly polite at all times, but utterly determined that his wife had made the right decision in pricing her work so high. It really was sad because, as I said, it seemed to be a good book. It wasn’t my kind of thing – a LONG epic saga set in Asia (China, I believe, but definitely Asia) – otherwise I might have given it a try, if I could have afforded it. But that would only have been because the gentleman was obviously very proud of his wife, while being very polite, and the one excellent, TRULY excellent review it received from this other venue (which I also can’t now remember). But it wasn’t my kind of thing and I couldn’t have afforded it anyway. Really sad.

  5. Yeah, I think the “it’s worth x” is a different argument. Unfortunately, the law of the marketplace is as true here as everywhere:

    It’s worth what someone will pay for it.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..Dear Debut Self-Published Author, $4.99 (plus!) For Your Kindle Book?My Profile

  6. The thing is, for an ebook, the actual price isn’t the issue–it’s what I see in the sample. I think that self-pub authors should NOT price their books below $2.99, ever, and that $4.99 is a more reasonable price point. Because if you price it too cheaply, I think you’re screwing yourself.

    Both because under $2.99 Amazon cuts down your royalties, and also because if you put it so low it seems like you are just self-pubbing to get it pubbed. What I mean by that is that if I see a novel that’s only $.99 and it isn’t a special deal (such as a cheaper price for the first in a series, or a sale), then I feel that the person just wanted it out there…which doesn’t fill me with confidence in the state of the product.

    I’m only speaking for myself, granted, but there’s a LOT of unedited…stuff out there that isn’t ready for a general audience. Call me picky, but I like to make sure that my time is going to be well-spent–I don’t have a lot of time to read, and too much already in the to-read pile.

    This is NOT to say that self-pub automatically equals bad in my eyes–it doesn’t. If I don’t have the Editorial Gatekeepers who I trust already vetting the product, I use my own judgement. And some of that decision process to even download a sample (that I will then have to sort through) requires it looking like a professional product. That includes how it was priced.

    And then once I read that sample, I am your worst nightmare. I read as if I were a cranky slushreader. I look for reasons to skip over this book and go to the next, because I don’t have time to read them all. I can only read what I will enjoy reading and will get something out of. So beyond vagaries like “taste” I’m looking for professional quality writing.

    That means, if the sample has lots of typos (especially ones that a good spellchecker would catch, but spellcheck-proof mistakes are also bad), lazy sentences, etc., I delete it. To that extent, the price isn’t the important thing once you get me to download the sample.

    Just my spare change,
    Jennifer Brinn recently posted..Product Placement in Real SteelMy Profile

  7. Jaimie says:

    “And then once I read that sample, I am your worst nightmare.”

    Yeah, that’s me exactly. I’m willing to pay more for a self-pub book because I am so brutal with the sample.
    Jaimie recently posted..What men wantMy Profile

  8. Mmmmm, I do see your point about the sample, and I’d love to see no books at all priced below 2.99 in a way, because that would certainly benefit me as an author.

    At the same time, if we’re talking about only buying books that I can still love after being brutal with the sample, I’m not sure I’d ever buy a self-published one, and not as many trad-pub as I do now. Most books, even the ones with a talented author AND a talented editor, aren’t near-perfect, and most books aren’t “perfect” at all as far as my preferences go. I think we’re talking about a lot less self-publishing authors getting sales at all, if there are none offered at a price people are willing to pay for flawed-but-entertaining.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..#5MinuteFiction Week 76 #NaNoWriMo Edition FINALISTS!My Profile

  9. Steve U says:

    There’s also the price vs. value argument, that the cheaper a book is (and I’m looking at you, $.99ers) the lower the quality of the book may be. And I was in a discussion the other day where the subject came up about the $.99 & $2.99 points screaming “self-published” to potential buyers, and maybe having to overcome some perceived negative stigma. So hey, why not mix it up at $3.33, or $3.49, or $3.75, etc.?
    Steve U recently posted..Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB WoodMy Profile

  10. Jane George says:

    Perception is apparently worth something. When I recently looked at my book’s Amazon page, I saw that the books listed under, ‘Customers who bought this book also bought…’ were higher priced, trad-pubbed books, and I had gotten a couple of returns where I had never had a return happen before. In order to run with that crowd and not incur ‘eek, it’s a cheapie self-pub’ returns, I raised my price a dollar. While I am not burning up the charts, sales are rising and I currently have no more returns. I stand behind my price point of $4.99 (hey, it has pictures!) and will price my upcoming books the same. $4.99 is a reasonable, not an exorbitant, price.

  11. No book is going to be perfect. I expect that, and take it into account. But what drives me is my limited amount of reading time. I want the book to give me *something* special–and really, that special is going to get lost if I’m stumbling over typos.

    It’s even worse when you use the Kindle’s Text-to-Speech option. She does not like to pronounce typos.

    And I’m not surprised that you (to Jane George) are seeing better activity since raising the price. Perception is only one part of the equation, but I’m sure it is significant. I know I see it as a vote of confidence in the writing and am more likely to download the sample if it is something that sounds like I’d like it.

    I think too much is driven by the idea that the cheaper, the better–and it isn’t actually true. When I worked in paper ‘zines, we didn’t give them away because we actually had more readers if we charged for them.

    Steve U: I think that having a varied price isn’t necessarily going to erase the negative “self-pub” thing, if only because we’re so wired to see x.99 as prices anyway. There’s been studies about it that basically say our brains are dumb with numbers, and even though we KNOW it rounds to the next higher, we don’t *know* that at a deeper level.

    I guess for me, unless it is a novella or short story, if I see below $2.99 I assume the person isn’t in this for the kind of business I’m looking for. (This assumes I know nothing about the book at all).

    Jennifer Brinn recently posted..Product Placement in Real SteelMy Profile

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